If You Believe Bond Drinks Heineken, I Have a Bridge to Sell You

I have it on good authority that martinis are James Bond's drink of choice. In something like 258 different films and Ian Fleming novels, he either orders a martini or accepts one when it is proffered. He is very clear about this. Martinis are his drink.

Beverages in which James Bond has been depicted in the act of drinking include martinis and, maybe once or twice, water. Beverages in which he has not been depicted in the act of drinking include cranberry juice, Gatorade, Bloody Marys, skim milk, Red Bull, Cosmopolitans, Slurpies, Slushies, white wine spritzers and pretty much anything else that can physically be cascaded down one's gullet.

In conclusion: James Bond likes martinis. He likes them prepared a certain way. Martinis are as much a James Bond mainstay as well-tailored dinner jackets and groanily suggestive banter. He drinks martinis, foils baddies and beds babes. That is what he does. That is what he has always done.

I bring this up in light of Heineken's persistent-to-the-point-of-mania attempts to bind its brand to the Bond franchise, which will (reportedly) culminate with great, character-defiling glory when 007 sips a Heineken in Skyfall, the franchise's 23rd installment. I bring this up because no matter how hard it tries and how many dollars it spends to this end, Heineken will never establish itself as The Beverage Of Bond, or of other would-be dashing global superspies. It just won't, because readers and viewers have been conditioned for half a century to believe in the suaveness-affirming bona fides of a shaken martini. Basically, this is the marketing equivalent of banging one's head against titanium-reinforced cinder blocks.



The video/game/whatever that Heineken has devised as part of its latest Bond-bait campaign is exactly what you'd expect. It looks fantastic, with action sequences that trump most anything you'll see on the average network detective show. It delivers the now-expected interactivity, allowing users to plug themselves into the action via a smooth photo-upload interface dealie. And it contains several knowing nods to the Bond canon, among them the SPECTRE logo and a digitally facilitated appearance by Dr. No.

Still, what's the point? Yes, we live in the "brand experience" era, in which brands must offer access to lavish virtual playgrounds while simultaneously minding product quality, fending off the competition and monitoring our delusional whining on 18 different social-media platforms. At the same time, the Heineken/Bond adventure is lazy, setting itself aboard yet another casino-and-caviar bullet train and trotting out Bond girl Severine as its hostess. (Separately, how about we name the next Bond girl "Jill" or "Nancy," or at least something that doesn't sound like an industrial sealant?)

Also, either the "assignment" was devised with grade-school operatives in mind or I'm playing it wrong, because its successful completion surely requires more than clicking on two half-hidden briefcases and calling it an afternoon. On the plus side, after I finished/won, I was pelted with a series of punny, Bond-caliber compliments ("you put the 'crack' back into 'case-cracking'") and told by the lovely Severine that she hopes our paths cross again. What can I say? Lithe Eurobabes find the virtual me as irresistible as they do affordable lip balm.

I understand that we live in an era in which brands can sometimes be whoever and whatever they want to be if they repeat it often enough. But asking us to buy that James Bond is a Heineken kinda fellow is too much of a leap, no matter how much the guys and gals in marketing might wish otherwise. Brands that lack self-awareness bum me out, man.

12 comments about "If You Believe Bond Drinks Heineken, I Have a Bridge to Sell You ".
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  1. Brian Gorman from Wave2 Media Solutions, October 9, 2012 at 3:37 p.m.

    Oh no Bond drinks Heineken but only when it's shaken not stirred.

  2. Jonathan Hutter from EMHS (Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems), October 9, 2012 at 3:38 p.m.

    Kind of ironic, in that, in all of the movies, James Bond performs any number of improbable stunts or feats; piloting a space shuttle, performing a spiral leap in an AMC Hornet (talk about improbable), driving a boat over dry land, fighting on the Golden Gate Bridge (ok, you can guess my generation). Yet, the moment that James Bond finally jumps the shark, is when he drinks a Heineken. One other point, if you go all the way back to Goldfinger, there was, in fact, a Bond Girl named Jill (Masterson) in that movie.

  3. Larry Levine from LML Consulting Group, October 9, 2012 at 3:39 p.m.

    I used to believe that Bond would only drive an Aston Martin. How soon we forget!

  4. Michael Strassman from WGBH, October 9, 2012 at 4:06 p.m.

    Larry D is right, no doubt about it. Larry L's point about the BMW is moot because I think it was a rental and Bond ultimately ended up in an Aston at a later point in the movie, if memory serves. Come to think of it, the fact that I remember or misremember Bond driving an Aston later in the movie only goes to show that BMW was wasting its time, like Heiniken.

  5. Michael Blumfield from Michael Blumfield Business Communications, October 9, 2012 at 4:07 p.m.

    You do realize, of course, that James Bond is a fictional character, correct? And that he's been played by -- what, half a dozen different actors? Given the concept of poetic license, is it fair to think ill of viewers who could accept the fact that he may substitute one alcoholic drink for another? If McDonald's can call itself an official sponsor of the Olympics without massive ridicule, can't Heineken buy a little product placement without incurring our wrath? Really, I'm just playing devil's advocate here. You've got a valid point -- it's just funny to think about consistency of a pretend person being the subject of debate.

  6. Michael Strassman from WGBH, October 9, 2012 at 4:08 p.m.

    oh...and if Bond drank beer, it would be Delerium Tremens...or a Bud because he was going undercover as a NASCAR driver.

  7. Michael Strassman from WGBH, October 9, 2012 at 4:10 p.m.

    ...and to Michael B's point about Bond being a fictional character, heresy, sir! I can't hear you because I'm covering my ears and talking very loud.

  8. Catherine Wachs from Right Brain, October 9, 2012 at 4:12 p.m.

    Couldn't agree more. The best advertising efforts take a truth that is pervasive and twists it to the product's advantage. The worst ad campaigns do the opposite.

  9. Jonathan Hutter from EMHS (Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems), October 9, 2012 at 4:58 p.m.

    Michael Blumfield, don't you know that James Bond is a role model? Just like Murphy Brown was to a generation of impressionable young people. Or at least to Dan Quayle. My personal motto is: What would Don Draper do?

  10. Thomas Siebert from BENEVOLENT PROPAGANDA, October 9, 2012 at 5:56 p.m.

    Tempest in a pint glass, really. If 007 doesn't have his signature drink in "Skyfall" at one point or another (and another), I'll be very surprised. Nothing wrong with him having a Heineken at some dive bar while undercover.

  11. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 9, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.

    Believing fictional characters are real goes back more than a couple of thousand years. The gods be praise worthy shape shifters.

  12. Michael Blumfield from Michael Blumfield Business Communications, October 9, 2012 at 7:50 p.m.

    Ah, that's right. I remember how Dramamine got that big endorsement from Odysseus. Said for sure the sirens would have lured him to his death if Dramamine hadn't given him that "like walking on land" feeling.

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